It Is What It Is
It’s amazing how much pain and angst we create for ourselves by holding on to our cherished expectations about who people should be for us. My boss should be able to… My mother/father should do these things for me… My employees ought to… A good spouse would… Friends are supposed to… We have a lot of expectations of others, and we tend to get very upset when our expectations are not met.
Sometimes people have very different ideas about how they want to fulfill their roles in our lives. Your friend’s idea of being a good friend might be different than what you had in mind. More often, though, the people who disappoint us lack the skills or perspective needed to be and do what we expect of them.
If you believe a person is capable of making the changes you desire, then the first step is to request what you are hoping for. If the person is willing to change it’s important to support the person in making the transition to the new behavior.
There are times, though, when the person in question is not capable of, or interested in, making the change you’re hoping for. Your boss isn’t suddenly going to become more insightful and courageous; your aging mother isn’t likely to stop finding fault with your choices; your colleague isn’t going to start caring about the project as much as you do overnight.
In these cases, you have a choice. You can hold on to your expectations and feel justified in being angry, upset and/or disappointed. Or you can accept the situation for what it is and decide what you’re doing to do differently as a result of this reality. Righteously holding on to expectations that won’t be met keeps a futile pattern of frustration in place. The only thing that’s changing is you – and not in a good way.
It’s truly amazing how much freedom comes from accepting what is and making your own choices as to how you will respond when the world doesn’t meet your expectations. Ask yourself, “Given that this is how it is, what do I choose to do differently?” You might:
- Release yourself from some of your perceived responsibilities in a relationship. For example, you might release yourself from feeling guilty about not calling a friend who never bothers to reach out to you.
- You may seek what you are looking for somewhere else. You aren’t learning as much as you’d like from your boss, so find a mentor or expand your network so you meet other people you can learn from.
- Change your expectations. Your father isn’t ever going to get a Father of the Year award. Can you let go of wanting him to be what he can’t be and accept him for who he is?
- You might end the relationship. If it’s not working for you perhaps it’s time to let it go.
Don’t let unmet expectations keep you in a state of perpetual frustration and disappointment. You are always at choice about how you participate in any relationship. Choose to be empowered. Empowerment begins with the grace to accept what is, and wisdom to creatively respond with loving compassion — for yourself and for others.
Dianna L. Anderson, MCC
Join the Conversation
How has shifting expectations helped you in your relationships?